Renowned writer, feminist theorist, and cultural critic bell hooks passed away on Dec. 15 at her home in Berea, Kentucky. She was 69.

bell hooks

bell hooks. Photo by Liza Matthews.

Prominent writer, feminist theorist, professor, and social activist, bell hooks, died on December 15, 2021, at her home in Berea, Kentucky after an extended illness. She was 69.

News of her death was shared in a press statement by hooks’ niece, Ebony Motley, stating that she was surrounded by family and friends when she passed.

bell hooks was born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to a family of seven children. Throughout her career, she wrote and published over 30 books on feminism, racism, class, media, and culture. hooks’ writing is deeply personal and educational, drawing on her own painful experiences of racism and sexism in an effort to educate others on how to combat them.

hooks played an important role in the American Buddhist community, drawing inspiration from Buddhist practice in her life and work. Her conversations with a number of important Buddhist leaders have been published in Lion’s Roar, along with her reflections on spirituality, race, feminism, and life.

bell hooks was first exposed to Buddhism due to her love and exploration of Beat poetry — most notably Beat poets Jack Kerouac and Gary Snyder. At the age of 18, she met Snyder, a Zen practitioner, who invited her to the Ring of Bone Zendo in Nevada City, California, for a May Day celebration, and engaged in various forms of what she called a “Buddhist Christian practice” ever since.

hooks spoke and wrote of her spirituality often, and met in conversation with many influential Buddhist teachers, including Thich Nhat HanhPema Chödrön, and Sharon Salzberg.

hooks’ teachings have impacted many, playing a vital role in twenty-first-century activism. This fall, Berea College in hooks’ hometown opened the bell hooks center, an inclusive space for students as social justice activists and leaders, with training and tools for those committed to dismantling systems of oppression including gender and racial inequality.

“The bell hooks Institute at Berea College will continue to be a valuable and informative beacon to her life’s work, continuing to remind humans that life is all about love,” a statement from Berea College on hooks’ death reads.

A celebration of life for bell hooks will be announced by the family at a later date.

To read more about hooks’ remarkable life and work, alongside a selection of pieces by and conversations with hooks published in the pages of Lion’s Roar, visit our page “The Best of bell hooks: Life, Writings, Quotes, and Books.

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